By Gabriel Makanjuola
HOW else can one describe the recent invitation of licensed PSPs by VisionScape, the Lagos State Government’s foreign waste manager, to outsource short-haul transportation of municipal waste within the state but an irony, an attempt by a patient to administer treatment on his doctor? Here is a patient, who is so sick that everyone is expecting his death, then suddenly from his state of helplessness on his sick bed, he turns round and feebly tries to treat his healthy doctor. How can this be?
Here is a company that has woefully failed to live up to expectation over a year since the State Government signed a 10-year contractual agreement with it to displace the about 350 PSP operators from domestic waste collection and disposal in the state without any good reason at a time the state was nationally and internationally acclaimed the cleanest in the country.
But unfortunately, heaps of refuse and waste which Lagosians thought they have put behind them for good, are back all over the city particularly on major roads and highways. Homes are almost being swallowed up by unmoved refuse, just as rats which feed fat on heaps of undisposed food remnants have not only grown fatter but are mistaken for rabbits. They are multiplying in millions and contesting space with humans. Lagos has returned to its pre-1999 years when it earned the sobriquet of the dirtiest city in the world.
Then, very unashamedly, the company that was so highly promoted as having the magic wand to better manage the waste processes in Lagos with the cheaper funds it would bring in, put up a public notice on Monday, February 12, 2018 to invite licensed PSPs for outsourcing of short-haul transportation of municipal waste within Lagos State. That call for the licensed PSP operators it has so much disparaged before now is nothing but an advertisement of its incompetence, its inability to fulfill its contractual obligations and a betrayal of Government’s confidence in its ability and exclusive reserve of domestic waste collection and disposal. It has also tacitly admitted that the PSPs are good at what they do contrary to the negative impression of them it had earlier tried to give.
But far beyond this is the question it raises, that is, if by that publication the private company has not appropriated and usurped the role of the state waste management regulatory agency, the Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, and that of the supervisory Ministry of Environment, MoE.
Very laughable was the 48-hour timeframe for expression of interest in the outsourcing of the short-haul transportation of municipal waste by the PSPs. It was a show of false illusion of self-worth, believing that legislating operators out of existence through the connivance of the state legislature will send operators scampering for cover with their tails between their legs back to their offices. But they are dead wrong! It only got them thinking, making them job seekers. They soon realised that the PSP operators too are investors and money talks. Millions of Naira is required daily to fuel and fix the trucks and those who worked hard to earn it will not fritter it away just because a company suddenly enjoys a monopoly in the business.
If the government is really interested in its Cleaner Lagos Initiative, it should extend to the local PSP operators the same contract terms it has initiated with VisionScape and see if they will not amaze it with their delivery within the shortest possible time unlike the foreign expert now asking for 18 months to exhibit its much advertised wizardry in waste management.
The local PSP operators they claimed were incompetent and lack the equipment to be in the business are now the ones helping them to move the overwhelming heaps of waste they are unable to contend with while state officials are pretentiously looking away as if they are unaware of what is happening. The beauty of waste management lies in its transparency. It has a way of showcasing and regulating itself. You know when it’s working and when it’s not. The indication is always in the clean or filthy state of the environment.
Lack of proper understanding of waste management is not only responsible for government’s action in throwing the state back into this messy waste entrapment we now find ourselves, but the reason the dump sites have terribly gone bad and are collapsing. The dumpsites are full and a disaster waiting to happen. PSPs have no problem of collection but of dumping. If the issues that created the fault lines are not addressed, they will remain clogs in the wheel of any waste management programme of government until they are resolved. Operators will continue to be inefficient if they have to stay, waiting to dump sometimes for as long as 48 hours.
*Mr. Makanjuola, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos.